The State of Play in Syria

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Amid the dizzying array of jihadist groups, rebel militias, umbrella opposition alliances, and state-level actors either directly or indirectly involved in Syria’s conflict, it can be difficult to tell who is fighting whom and why. Headlines have captured the fierce battle for Aleppo’s rebel-held east, pitting Syrian government forces and their Russian, Iranian, Lebanese, and Iraqi allies against a coalition of opposition fighters within the city.

However, in large part, this attention has focused on high-level diplomatic negotiations between Russia and the U.S. over the prospect of a ceasefire in Aleppo proper. Often lost in the mix are the goals, status, and capabilities of the myriad opposition groups operating in northern Syria. At the same time, direct Turkish intervention along its border with Syria, and support for a coalition of Arab rebels under the umbrella of “Operation Euphrates Shield,” has added a new layer of complexity to U.S. plans for liberating the ISIS capital city of Raqqa.

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